IU Health to ban employee smoking in effort to stop 'third hand' smoke

Indiana University Health is moving beyond prohibiting smoking on its grounds, to banning smoking anywhere by its employees, at least while they're on the clock.

Indianapolis

Indiana University Health is moving beyond prohibiting smoking on its grounds, to banning smoking anywhere by its employees, at least while they're on the clock.

The new policy takes effect Monday, August 22.  The idea behind it is third hand smoke. Officials say it can be hazardous to patients.

IU Health's Chief Medical Officer said it's part of an evolution in understanding since he first joined the medical team 40 years ago.

"When I first started here, the physicians smoked in the hospital and we've come a long way since then," Dr. Richard Graffis said. "The light bulb has gone on. The scientific evidence that smoking is bad for you is no surprise to anybody."  

That extends to second hand smoke, from those puffing away nearby, but third hand smoke refers to the smoke that's absorbed on the outside by a smoker.

"The residue of the smoke is in the clothing or the equipment that the person has and apparently, they've been able to measure this and they can tell it does get in the air where you don't obviously see smoke,"  Graffis said.

Beyond the health issues, Dr. Graffis said the stench of smoke can cause  patients to question the quality of care they're receiving from IU Health employees. Beginning Monday, use of all tobacco, including smokeless, will be banned during work hours, no matter where it takes place.

First time offenders will get a written warning and referral for tobacco counseling and repeat offenders could be fired.

"Darn! I don't know about that!"  Janet Earnest was stunned by that development.  

She doesn't work at IU Health.  She does CAT-scans and MRI's at Wishard, but she said Wishard frequently follows IU's lead on policies. She said she purposely leaves work for lunch so she can get in her car, drive somewhere for lunch and smoke.

"It seems pretty unfair to me.  I mean, as long as you don't wreak of smoke, when I get in my car, I roll the windows down."  

Connie Waites is an Anthem Health employee.  She suspects employees will try to beat the new rules.  

"I mean, everybody's going to sneak.  If I'm on lunch, then how do you know?  If I'm not on the premises?"

Dr. Graffis said IU Health has received some feedback from employees who smoke that they're not happy about the new measures, but he's confident they'll see the wisdom of the new rules.

He said there won't be any police force out looking for smokers on break and that the company values its employees and wants to help them make the transition to a healthier lifestyle.

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